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Stuff We Love

A (Very Strong) Case for a Creative Sabbatical

Stuff We Love 03/07/2019


At the start of 2018, Chloe May Brown wasn’t exactly planning to take five months off from her work as a ceramicist. But she was in the midst of finding a new Portland, Maine, studio when she realized it was time for a break. “I was waking up in the morning and starting work before even having my breakfast and working all day until the evening. Basically, all my time at home was spent working,” she recalls. So Chloe did the scary thing and stepped away. And even though her sabbatical changed some plans she’d set for the year, she came out of it more inspired and ready to work than ever. Here’s how and why it got her (pottery) wheels turning.



“I knew I needed to make a change and that it needed to happen immediately, so one day I just put a hold on my making and took apart my at-home studio. I decided that I needed to take a break until I found a better solution and another studio. But, still, I thought that I would get right back into it. I had a lot of plans for the year with moving studios and really growing my business, and basically the complete opposite happened. But I just followed my instinct about what needed to happen.”



“Taking that amount of time off was actually really great for my well-being and, in the long run, for my creative process. It was really difficult to do since making things was such a big part of my life, so I had to find other things to do. I stayed around Portland and didn’t do any travel and instead just focused on my day-to-day and what I was doing when I had this time available. I tried to really re-prioritize my time and do things I wanted to do, rather than things I felt like I had to do.”


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“I read more books than I had read in years, and it’s something that I’m trying to still do daily. I read a lot of books that focused on the natural world, both fiction and non-fiction, and some of my favorites were The Island of the Colorblind by Oliver Sacks (I also read his Oaxaca Journal and The Mind’s Eye), The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr, The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, and Euphoria by Lily King.”



“I took time to plant a garden together with my best friend, and we’d tend to it together, which was a really amazing use of my time. I also spent a lot more time outside in nature—part of my break was during the summer, and summer in Maine is the best. I finally had the time to really enjoy it. I went to the beach and also just explored new places around where I live.”



“I drew a lot more and focused on other aspects of art that I really like to do outside of ceramics. I also started to think more about the textile work that I was doing before I dove into clay and allowed myself time to sketch new designs and start working on some new things. That really helped me to become inspired again.”



“I thought a lot about what I was actually doing versus what I wanted to be doing and where I wanted my work to go.  I realized that I had been working too much, and that idea I had in my mind of wanting to produce more and grow my business just wasn’t necessarily what felt right. I wanted to continue to work—and I love what I’m making—but that idea of more, more, more wasn’t the right thing for me. Realizing that made all difference.”



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